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Nicole and Eliceo

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Paragraph Writing Templates (Special Education Distance Learning)

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Second Grade Writing Prompts Bundle - Opinion, Narrative, Informational, How To

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Narrative Writing (Small Moment) Template with Sentence Starters

Angela Dansie

Also included in:  Writing Template Bundle for Special Education and Intervention

First Grade Narrative Writing Prompts and Worksheets

First Grade Narrative Writing Prompts and Worksheets

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Kindergarten Writing Prompts Bundle - Opinion, Narrative, Informational, How To

Narrative Writing Activities & Templates | Fairy Tales

Narrative Writing Activities & Templates | Fairy Tales

Mrs Learning Bee

Also included in:  NARRATIVE WRITING | Complete Bundle for K-2

Personal Narrative Writing

Personal Narrative Writing

Samantha Kelly

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Comic Strip Templates, Activities & Assessment - Narrative Writing | Sequencing

Comic Strip Templates, Activities & Assessment - Narrative Writing | Sequencing

Past The Potholes

Second Grade Personal Narrative Writing Exemplar (Lucy Calkins Inspired)

Teaching Charts

Narrative Writing

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Sharza In Second

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The Cool Teachers' Lounge

French Narrative Writing/Comment écrire une histoire

Mme McIntosh

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Narrative Writing Brainstorming Templates Digital and Print for Middle School

Narrative Writing Brainstorming Templates Digital and Print for Middle School

Language is an Art

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Four Square Writing Graphic Organizers Template Pack Editable

Four Square Writing Graphic Organizers Template Pack Editable

Carrberry Creations

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First Grade Writing Prompts Bundle - Opinion, Narrative, Informational, How To

First Grade Writing Prompts Bundle - Opinion, Narrative, Informational, How To

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Scaffolded Writing Templates

Little Rhody Teacher

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Samantha Henry

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A Step-by-Step Plan for Teaching Narrative Writing

July 29, 2018

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narrative writing template middle school

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“Those who tell the stories rule the world.”  This proverb, attributed to the Hopi Indians, is one I wish I’d known a long time ago, because I would have used it when teaching my students the craft of storytelling. With a well-told story we can help a person see things in an entirely new way. We can forge new relationships and strengthen the ones we already have. We can change a law, inspire a movement, make people care fiercely about things they’d never given a passing thought.

But when we study storytelling with our students, we forget all that. Or at least I did. When my students asked why we read novels and stories, and why we wrote personal narratives and fiction, my defense was pretty lame: I probably said something about the importance of having a shared body of knowledge, or about the enjoyment of losing yourself in a book, or about the benefits of having writing skills in general.

I forgot to talk about the  power of story. I didn’t bother to tell them that the ability to tell a captivating story is one of the things that makes human beings extraordinary. It’s how we connect to each other. It’s something to celebrate, to study, to perfect. If we’re going to talk about how to teach students to write stories, we should start by thinking about why we tell stories at all . If we can pass that on to our students, then we will be going beyond a school assignment; we will be doing something transcendent.

Now. How do we get them to write those stories? I’m going to share the process I used for teaching narrative writing. I used this process with middle school students, but it would work with most age groups.

A Note About Form: Personal Narrative or Short Story?

When teaching narrative writing, many teachers separate personal narratives from short stories. In my own classroom, I tended to avoid having my students write short stories because personal narratives were more accessible. I could usually get students to write about something that really happened, while it was more challenging to get them to make something up from scratch.

In the “real” world of writers, though, the main thing that separates memoir from fiction is labeling: A writer might base a novel heavily on personal experiences, but write it all in third person and change the names of characters to protect the identities of people in real life. Another writer might create a short story in first person that reads like a personal narrative, but is entirely fictional. Just last weekend my husband and I watched the movie Lion and were glued to the screen the whole time, knowing it was based on a true story. James Frey’s book  A Million Little Pieces  sold millions of copies as a memoir but was later found to contain more than a little bit of fiction. Then there are unique books like Curtis Sittenfeld’s brilliant novel American Wife , based heavily on the early life of Laura Bush but written in first person, with fictional names and settings, and labeled as a work of fiction. The line between fact and fiction has always been really, really blurry, but the common thread running through all of it is good storytelling.

With that in mind, the process for teaching narrative writing can be exactly the same for writing personal narratives or short stories; it’s the same skill set. So if you think your students can handle the freedom, you might decide to let them choose personal narrative or fiction for a narrative writing assignment, or simply tell them that whether the story is true doesn’t matter, as long as they are telling a good story and they are not trying to pass off a fictional story as fact.

Here are some examples of what that kind of flexibility could allow:

If we aren’t too restrictive about what we call these pieces, and we talk about different possibilities with our students, we can end up with lots of interesting outcomes. Meanwhile, we’re still teaching students the craft of narrative writing.

A Note About Process: Write With Your Students

One of the most powerful techniques I used as a writing teacher was to do my students’ writing assignments with them. I would start my own draft at the same time as they did, composing “live” on the classroom projector, and doing a lot of thinking out loud so they could see all the decisions a writer has to make.

The most helpful parts for them to observe were the early drafting stage, where I just scratched out whatever came to me in messy, run-on sentences, and the revision stage, where I crossed things out, rearranged, and made tons of notes on my writing. I have seen over and over again how witnessing that process can really help to unlock a student’s understanding of how writing actually gets made.

A Narrative Writing Unit Plan

Before I get into these steps, I should note that there is no one right way to teach narrative writing, and plenty of accomplished teachers are doing it differently and getting great results. This just happens to be a process that has worked for me.

Step 1: Show Students That Stories Are Everywhere

Getting our students to tell stories should be easy. They hear and tell stories all the time. But when they actually have to put words on paper, they forget their storytelling abilities: They can’t think of a topic. They omit relevant details, but go on and on about irrelevant ones. Their dialogue is bland. They can’t figure out how to start. They can’t figure out how to end.

So the first step in getting good narrative writing from students is to help them see that they are already telling stories every day . They gather at lockers to talk about that thing that happened over the weekend. They sit at lunch and describe an argument they had with a sibling. Without even thinking about it, they begin sentences with “This one time…” and launch into stories about their earlier childhood experiences. Students are natural storytellers; learning how to do it well on paper is simply a matter of studying good models, then imitating what those writers do.

So start off the unit by getting students to tell their stories. In journal quick-writes, think-pair-shares, or by playing a game like Concentric Circles , prompt them to tell some of their own brief stories: A time they were embarrassed. A time they lost something. A time they didn’t get to do something they really wanted to do. By telling their own short anecdotes, they will grow more comfortable and confident in their storytelling abilities. They will also be generating a list of topic ideas. And by listening to the stories of their classmates, they will be adding onto that list and remembering more of their own stories.

And remember to tell some of your own. Besides being a good way to bond with students, sharing  your stories will help them see more possibilities for the ones they can tell.

Step 2: Study the Structure of a Story

Now that students have a good library of their own personal stories pulled into short-term memory, shift your focus to a more formal study of what a story looks like.

Use a diagram to show students a typical story arc like the one below. Then, using a simple story—like this Coca Cola commercial —fill out the story arc with the components from that story. Once students have seen this story mapped out, have them try it with another one, like a story you’ve read in class, a whole novel, or another short video.

narrative writing template middle school

Step 3: Introduce the Assignment

Up to this point, students have been immersed in storytelling. Now give them specific instructions for what they are going to do. Share your assignment rubric so they understand the criteria that will be used to evaluate them; it should be ready and transparent right from the beginning of the unit. As always, I recommend using a single point rubric for this.

Step 4: Read Models

Once the parameters of the assignment have been explained, have students read at least one model story, a mentor text that exemplifies the qualities you’re looking for. This should be a story on a topic your students can kind of relate to, something they could see themselves writing. For my narrative writing unit (see the end of this post), I wrote a story called “Frog” about a 13-year-old girl who finally gets to stay home alone, then finds a frog in her house and gets completely freaked out, which basically ruins the fun she was planning for the night.

They will be reading this model as writers, looking at how the author shaped the text for a purpose, so that they can use those same strategies in their own writing. Have them look at your rubric and find places in the model that illustrate the qualities listed in the rubric. Then have them complete a story arc for the model so they can see the underlying structure.

Ideally, your students will have already read lots of different stories to look to as models. If that isn’t the case, this list of narrative texts recommended by Cult of Pedagogy followers on Twitter would be a good place to browse for titles that might be right for your students. Keep in mind that we have not read most of these stories, so be sure to read them first before adopting them for classroom use.

narrative writing template middle school

Click the image above to view the full list of narrative texts recommended by Cult of Pedagogy followers on Twitter. If you have a suggestion for the list, please email us through our contact page.

Step 5: Story Mapping

At this point, students will need to decide what they are going to write about. If they are stuck for a topic, have them just pick something they can write about, even if it’s not the most captivating story in the world. A skilled writer could tell a great story about deciding what to have for lunch. If they are using the skills of narrative writing, the topic isn’t as important as the execution.

Have students complete a basic story arc for their chosen topic using a diagram like the one below. This will help them make sure that they actually have a story to tell, with an identifiable problem, a sequence of events that build to a climax, and some kind of resolution, where something is different by the end. Again, if you are writing with your students, this would be an important step to model for them with your own story-in-progress.

narrative writing template middle school

Step 6: Quick Drafts

Now, have students get their chosen story down on paper as quickly as possible: This could be basically a long paragraph that would read almost like a summary, but it would contain all the major parts of the story. Model this step with your own story, so they can see that you are not shooting for perfection in any way. What you want is a working draft, a starting point, something to build on for later, rather than a blank page (or screen) to stare at.

Step 7: Plan the Pacing

Now that the story has been born in raw form, students can begin to shape it. This would be a good time for a lesson on pacing, where students look at how writers expand some moments to create drama and shrink other moments so that the story doesn’t drag. Creating a diagram like the one below forces a writer to decide how much space to devote to all of the events in the story.

narrative writing template middle school

Before students write a full draft, have them plan out the events in their story with a pacing diagram, a visual representation of how much “space” each part of the story is going to take up.

Step 8: Long Drafts

With a good plan in hand, students can now slow down and write a proper draft, expanding the sections of their story that they plan to really draw out and adding in more of the details that they left out in the quick draft.

Step 9: Workshop

Once students have a decent rough draft—something that has a basic beginning, middle, and end, with some discernible rising action, a climax of some kind, and a resolution, you’re ready to shift into full-on workshop mode. I would do this for at least a week: Start class with a short mini-lesson on some aspect of narrative writing craft, then give students the rest of the period to write, conference with you, and collaborate with their peers. During that time, they should focus some of their attention on applying the skill they learned in the mini-lesson to their drafts, so they will improve a little bit every day.

Topics for mini-lessons can include:

Step 10: Final Revisions and Edits

As the unit nears its end, students should be shifting away from revision , in which they alter the content of a piece, toward editing , where they make smaller changes to the mechanics of the writing. Make sure students understand the difference between the two: They should not be correcting each other’s spelling and punctuation in the early stages of this process, when the focus should be on shaping a better story.

One of the most effective strategies for revision and editing is to have students read their stories out loud. In the early stages, this will reveal places where information is missing or things get confusing. Later, more read-alouds will help them immediately find missing words, unintentional repetitions, and sentences that just “sound weird.” So get your students to read their work out loud frequently. It also helps to print stories on paper: For some reason, seeing the words in print helps us notice things we didn’t see on the screen.

To get the most from peer review, where students read and comment on each other’s work, more modeling from you is essential: Pull up a sample piece of writing and show students how to give specific feedback that helps, rather than simply writing “good detail” or “needs more detail,” the two comments I saw exchanged most often on students’ peer-reviewed papers.

Step 11: Final Copies and Publication

Once revision and peer review are done, students will hand in their final copies. If you don’t want to get stuck with 100-plus papers to grade, consider using Catlin Tucker’s station rotation model , which keeps all the grading in class. And when you do return stories with your own feedback, try using Kristy Louden’s delayed grade strategy , where students don’t see their final grade until they have read your written feedback.

Beyond the standard hand-in-for-a-grade, consider other ways to have students publish their stories. Here are some options:

So this is what worked for me. If you’ve struggled to get good stories from your students, try some or all of these techniques next time. I think you’ll find that all of your students have some pretty interesting stories to tell. Helping them tell their stories well is a gift that will serve them for many years after they leave your classroom. ♦

Want this unit ready-made?

If you’re a writing teacher in grades 7-12 and you’d like a classroom-ready unit like the one described above, including slideshow mini-lessons on 14 areas of narrative craft, a sample narrative piece, editable rubrics, and other supplemental materials to guide students through every stage of the process, take a look at my Narrative Writing unit . Just click on the image below and you’ll be taken to a page where you can read more and see a detailed preview of what’s included.

narrative writing template middle school

What to Read Next

narrative writing template middle school

Categories: Instruction , Podcast

Tags: English language arts , Grades 6-8 , Grades 9-12 , teaching strategies


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Wow, this is a wonderful guide! If my English teachers had taught this way, I’m sure I would have enjoyed narrative writing instead of dreading it. I’ll be able to use many of these suggestions when writing my blog! BrP

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Lst year I was so discouraged because the short stories looked like the quick drafts described in this article. I thought I had totally failed until I read this and realized I did not fai,l I just needed to complete the process. Thank you!

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I feel like you jumped in my head and connected my thoughts. I appreciate the time you took to stop and look closely at form. I really believe that student-writers should see all dimensions of narrative writing and be able to live in whichever style and voice they want for their work.

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Can’t thank you enough for this. So well curated that one can just follow it blindly and ace at teaching it. Thanks again!

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Great post! I especially liked your comments about reminding kids about the power of storytelling. My favourite podcasts and posts from you are always about how to do things in the classroom and I appreciate the research you do.

On a side note, the ice breakers are really handy. My kids know each other really well (rural community), and can tune out pretty quickly if there is nothing new to learn about their peers, but they like the games (and can remember where we stopped last time weeks later). I’ve started changing them up with ‘life questions’, so the editable version is great!

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I love writing with my students and loved this podcast! A fun extension to this narrative is to challenge students to write another story about the same event, but use the perspective of another “character” from the story. Books like Wonder (R.J. Palacio) and Wanderer (Sharon Creech) can model the concept for students.

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Thank you for your great efforts to reveal the practical writing strategies in layered details. As English is not my first language, I need listen to your podcast and read the text repeatedly so to fully understand. It’s worthy of the time for some great post like yours. I love sharing so I send the link to my English practice group that it can benefit more. I hope I could be able to give you some feedback later on.

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Thank you for helping me get to know better especially the techniques in writing narrative text. Im an English teacher for 5years but have little knowledge on writing. I hope you could feature techniques in writing news and fearute story. God bless and more power!

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Thank you for this! I am very interested in teaching a unit on personal narrative and this was an extremely helpful breakdown. As a current student teacher I am still unsure how to approach breaking down the structures of different genres of writing in a way that is helpful for me students but not too restrictive. The story mapping tools you provided really allowed me to think about this in a new way. Writing is such a powerful way to experience the world and more than anything I want my students to realize its power. Stories are how we make sense of the world and as an English teacher I feel obligated to give my students access to this particular skill.

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The power of story is unfathomable. There’s this NGO in India doing some great work in harnessing the power of storytelling and plots to brighten children’s lives and enlighten them with true knowledge. Check out Katha India here: http://bit.ly/KathaIndia

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Thank you so much for this. I did not go to college to become a writing professor, but due to restructuring in my department, I indeed am! This is a wonderful guide that I will use when teaching the narrative essay. I wonder if you have a similar guide for other modes such as descriptive, process, argument, etc.?

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Hey Melanie, Jenn does have another guide on writing! Check out A Step-by-Step Plan for Teaching Argumentative Writing .

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Hi, I am also wondering if there is a similar guide for descriptive writing in particular?

Hey Melanie, unfortunately Jenn doesn’t currently have a guide for descriptive writing. She’s always working on projects though, so she may get around to writing a unit like this in the future. You can always check her Teachers Pay Teachers page for an up-to-date list of materials she has available. Thanks!

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I absolutely adore this unit plan. I teach freshmen English at a low-income high school and wanted to find something to help my students find their voice. It is not often that I borrow material, but I borrowed and adapted all of it in the order that it is presented! It is cohesive, understandable, and fun. Thank you!!

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So glad to hear this, Nicole!

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Thanks sharing this post. My students often get confused between personal narratives and short stories. Whenever I ask them to write a short story, she share their own experiences and add a bit of fiction in it to make it interesting.

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Thank you! My students have loved this so far. I do have a question as to where the “Frog” story mentioned in Step 4 is. I could really use it! Thanks again.

This is great to hear, Emily! In Step 4, Jenn mentions that she wrote the “Frog” story for her narrative writing unit . Just scroll down the bottom of the post and you’ll see a link to the unit.

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I also cannot find the link to the short story “Frog”– any chance someone can send it or we can repost it?

This story was written for Jenn’s narrative writing unit. You can find a link to this unit in Step 4 or at the bottom of the article. Hope this helps.

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I cannot find the frog story mentioned. Could you please send the link.? Thank you

Hi Michelle,

The Frog story was written for Jenn’s narrative writing unit. There’s a link to this unit in Step 4 and at the bottom of the article.

Debbie- thanks for you reply… but there is no link to the story in step 4 or at the bottom of the page….

Hey Shawn, the frog story is part of Jenn’s narrative writing unit, which is available on her Teachers Pay Teachers site. The link Debbie is referring to at the bottom of this post will take you to her narrative writing unit and you would have to purchase that to gain access to the frog story. I hope this clears things up.

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Thank you so much for this resource! I’m a high school English teacher, and am currently teaching creative writing for the first time. I really do value your blog, podcast, and other resources, so I’m excited to use this unit. I’m a cyber school teacher, so clear, organized layout is important; and I spend a lot of time making sure my content is visually accessible for my students to process. Thanks for creating resources that are easy for us teachers to process and use.

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Do you have a lesson for Informative writing?

Hey Cari, Jenn has another unit on argumentative writing , but doesn’t have one yet on informative writing. She may develop one in the future so check back in sometime.

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I had the same question. Informational writing is so difficult to have a good strong unit in when you have so many different text structures to meet and need text-dependent writing tasks.

Creating an informational writing unit is still on Jenn’s long list of projects to get to, but in the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out When We All Teach Text Structures, Everyone Wins . It might help you out!

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This is a great lesson! It would be helpful to see a finished draft of the frog narrative arc. Students’ greatest challenge is transferring their ideas from the planner to a full draft. To see a full sample of how this arc was transformed into a complete narrative draft would be a powerful learning tool.

Hi Stacey! Jenn goes into more depth with the “Frog” lesson in her narrative writing unit – this is where you can find a sample of what a completed story arc might look. Also included is a draft of the narrative. If interested in checking out the unit and seeing a preview, just scroll down to the bottom of the post and click on the image. Hope this helps!

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Helped me learn for an entrance exam thanks very much

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Is the narrative writing lesson you talk about in https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/narrative-writing/

Also doable for elementary students you think, and if to what levels?

Love your work, Sincerely, Zanyar

Hey Zanyar,

It’s possible the unit would work with 4th and 5th graders, but Jenn definitely wouldn’t recommend going any younger. The main reason for this is that some of the mini-lessons in the unit could be challenging for students who are still concrete thinkers. You’d likely need to do some adjusting and scaffolding which could extend the unit beyond the 3 weeks. Having said that, I taught 1st grade and found the steps of the writing process, as described in the post, to be very similar. Of course learning targets/standards were different, but the process itself can be applied to any grade level (modeling writing, using mentor texts to study how stories work, planning the structure of the story, drafting, elaborating, etc.) Hope this helps!

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This has made my life so much easier. After teaching in different schools systems, from the American, to British to IB, one needs to identify the anchor standards and concepts, that are common between all these systems, to build well balanced thematic units. Just reading these steps gave me the guidance I needed to satisfy both the conceptual framework the schools ask for and the standards-based practice. Thank you Thank you.

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Would this work for teaching a first grader about narrative writing? I am also looking for a great book to use as a model for narrative writing. Veggie Monster is being used by his teacher and he isn’t connecting with this book in the least bit, so it isn’t having a positive impact. My fear is he will associate this with writing and I don’t want a negative association connected to such a beautiful process and experience. Any suggestions would be helpful.

Thank you for any information you can provide!

Although I think the materials in the actual narrative writing unit are really too advanced for a first grader, the general process that’s described in the blog post can still work really well.

I’m sorry your child isn’t connecting with The Night of the Veggie Monster. Try to keep in mind that the main reason this is used as a mentor text is because it models how a small moment story can be told in a big way. It’s filled with all kinds of wonderful text features that impact the meaning of the story – dialogue, description, bold text, speech bubbles, changes in text size, ellipses, zoomed in images, text placement, text shape, etc. All of these things will become mini-lessons throughout the unit. But there are lots of other wonderful mentor texts that your child might enjoy. My suggestion for an early writer, is to look for a small moment text, similar in structure, that zooms in on a problem that a first grader can relate to. In addition to the mentor texts that I found in this article , you might also want to check out Knuffle Bunny, Kitten’s First Full Moon, When Sophie Gets Angry Really Really Angry, and Whistle for Willie. Hope this helps!

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I saw this on Pinterest the other day while searching for examples of narritives units/lessons. I clicked on it because I always click on C.o.P stuff 🙂 And I wasn’t disapointed. I was intrigued by the connection of narratives to humanity–even if a student doesn’t identify as a writer, he/she certainly is human, right? I really liked this. THIS clicked with me.

A few days after I read the P.o.C post, I ventured on to YouTube for more ideas to help guide me with my 8th graders’ narrative writing this coming spring. And there was a TEDx video titled, “The Power of Personal Narrative” by J. Christan Jensen. I immediately remembered the line from the article above that associated storytelling with “power” and how it sets humans apart and if introduced and taught as such, it can be “extraordinary.”

I watched the video and to the suprise of my expectations, it was FANTASTIC. Between Jennifer’s post and the TEDx video ignited within me some major motivation and excitement to begin this unit.

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Thanks for sharing this with us! So glad that Jenn’s post paired with another text gave you some motivation and excitement. I’ll be sure to pass this on to Jenn!

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Thank you very much for this really helpful post! I really love the idea of helping our students understand that storytelling is powerful and then go on to teach them how to harness that power. That is the essence of teaching literature or writing at any level. However, I’m a little worried about telling students that whether a piece of writing is fact or fiction does not matter. It in fact matters a lot precisely because storytelling is powerful. Narratives can shape people’s views and get their emotions involved which would, in turn, motivate them to act on a certain matter, whether for good or for bad. A fictional narrative that is passed as factual could cause a lot of damage in the real world. I believe we should. I can see how helping students focus on writing the story rather than the truth of it all could help refine the needed skills without distractions. Nevertheless, would it not be prudent to teach our students to not just harness the power of storytelling but refrain from misusing it by pushing false narratives as factual? It is true that in reality, memoirs pass as factual while novels do as fictional while the opposite may be true for both cases. I am not too worried about novels passing as fictional. On the other hand, fictional narratives masquerading as factual are disconcerting and part of a phenomenon that needs to be fought against, not enhanced or condoned in education. This is especially true because memoirs are often used by powerful people to write/re-write history. I would really like to hear your opinion on this. Thanks a lot for a great post and a lot of helpful resources!

Thank you so much for this. Jenn and I had a chance to chat and we can see where you’re coming from. Jenn never meant to suggest that a person should pass off a piece of fictional writing as a true story. Good stories can be true, completely fictional, or based on a true story that’s mixed with some fiction – that part doesn’t really matter. However, what does matter is how a student labels their story. We think that could have been stated more clearly in the post , so Jenn decided to add a bit about this at the end of the 3rd paragraph in the section “A Note About Form: Personal Narrative or Short Story?” Thanks again for bringing this to our attention!

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You have no idea how much your page has helped me in so many ways. I am currently in my teaching credential program and there are times that I feel lost due to a lack of experience in the classroom. I’m so glad I came across your page! Thank you for sharing!

Thanks so much for letting us know-this means a whole lot!

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No, we’re sorry. Jenn actually gets this question fairly often. It’s something she considered doing at one point, but because she has so many other projects she’s working on, she’s just not gotten to it.

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I couldn’t find the story

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Hi, Duraiya. The “Frog” story is part of Jenn’s narrative writing unit, which is available on her Teachers Pay Teachers site. The link at the bottom of this post will take you to her narrative writing unit, which you can purchase to gain access to the story. I hope this helps!

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Elementary Assessments

Elementary Assessments

51 Great Narrative Writing Prompts for Middle School

Prompt middle schoolers to write about their personal experiences using these high-interest narrative writing prompts for middle school.

Using these prompts, students will improve writing techniques plus strengthen self-expression.

Additionally, these narrative writing prompts for middle school significantly reduce writer’s block resulting in students producing content more quickly.

So add a handful of these engaging narrative writing prompts for middle school to your teaching schedule this week.

Related: fun writing prompts for middle school

Narrative Writing Prompts for Middle School

1. Write about how you relate to one of the characters from your favorite book, movie, or TV show.

2. Retell a proud moment in your life.

3. Write about a time when you felt embarrassed.

4. Share a favorite vacation memory.

5. Discuss two regrets you have in life. If you could go back in time, what would you now do differently?

6. Compare and contrast your learning experiences in two different grade levels.

7. Retell of a time when you pushed forward to overcome a fear.

8. Share your experience participating in parent-teacher-student conferences. How did you feel? What successes and challenges did you face?

9. Write about a time when you felt unseen or left out of a group.

10. Describe a time when you were jealous of a friend. What were you jealous of, and how did you overcome the feeling?

11. Share a memory that involves you and your pet.

12. Write about learning how to do something new. Describe how you were feeling.

13. Discuss a time when you felt misunderstood by an adult.

14. Describe your favorite character from a read aloud, TV show, or movie.

15. Tell about a time when you got into trouble with a teacher but you were innocent.

16. Write about the good qualities of you and your family.

17. Describe your most incredible school memory.

18. Write about a time when you tried a new food.

19. Describe a time when you and your family had car trouble. What happened, and how was the issue resolved?

20. Write about any unique family traditions that you participate in during the holidays.

narrative writing prompts for middle school

21. Describe how you normally spend New Year’s Eve.

22. Tell about a time when you apologized to someone.

23. Describe your favorite type of music. Why do you like it so much? How does it make you feel?

24. Share what you like best and least about responding to narrative writing prompts for middle school.

25. Write about a time when you received a gift that you didn’t like but accepted it with grace.

26. Share a time when a middle school teacher made learning fun.

27. Describe the type of career you envision yourself having when older.

28. Retell the events of a time when you felt lonely but took actions to make yourself feel less lonely.

29. Write a story about the adventures you’d take if you had a time machine.

30. Write about a time when you felt a strong emotion (e.g. jealousy, sadness, happiness, fear, etc.) Describe what caused you to feel this way.

31. Tell about a time when you experienced an unexpected outcome.

32. What is it like to feel different? When have you felt different?

33. Share something that you regret.

34. What’s the worst memory you have so far about being in middle school?

35. Who inspires you and why?

36. Share a memory visiting another country.

37. Write about a time when you feel you were treated unfairly.

38. Imagine you could relive a memory. Which event would you repeat and why?

39. Tell about a time when you had a disagreement with a friend.

40. Write about a time you visited an interesting museum.

41. What’s the meaning behind your last name?

42. Write about a time when your family received bad service at a restaurant.

43. Retell the key events of a natural disaster that you experienced. 

44. Write about a time when you judged someone by the way he looks but then found out that he’s nothing like you thought.

45. What are some things that really bother you and why?

46. Share a memory being caught in a storm.

47. Write about a time when your family missed an important event.

48. Write a story about a time when you experienced another culture.

49. Write a story about an unforgettable experience.

50. Share a memory singing in a choir or performing in a band.

51. Tell the story behind an important family photograph.

Final Thoughts: Narrative Writing Prompts for Middle School

Now you have a quality collection of narrative writing prompts for middle school to use for various writing activities.

Related: books for teaching narrative writing

The Daring English Teacher

Narrative Writing Prompts to Assign Your Students

Narrative Writing Prompts to Assign Your Students

Here are 10 narrative writing prompts to consider using in your classroom.

Personal Narrative Writing Prompts for the Secondary ELA Classroom

Personal Narrative Prompts

Fictional Narrative Writing Prompts for the Secondary ELA Classroom

Fictional Narrative Prompts

Narrative Writing Prompts for the Secondary ELA Classroom

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Student Models

Student Writing Models

How do I use student models in my classroom?

narrative writing template middle school

When you need an example written by a student, check out our vast collection of free student models. Scroll through the list, or search for a mode of writing such as “explanatory” or “persuasive.”

Jump to . . .

Explanatory writing.

Narrative Writing

Creative Writing

Research Writing

Response to Literature

Persuasive Writing

Business Writing

Personal Writing

Free Editable Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer Examples

Creativity and writing go hand in hand and are some of the most demanding skills for everyone. We always look forward to our kid's progress in the creative writing classes and workshops. There is so much to teach, from vocabulary to structure and idea generation. So, our job is to make this a pleasant experience for the kids to enable them to learn what they are bound to enjoy. A narrative writing graphic organizer is a creative way to learn narrative writing without overwhelming the students.

1. What is a Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer

In personal narratives, organizing thoughts and ideas before starting writing is a crucial step. Narrative graphic organizers are perfect tools to help the students dig down into the key details and explore their thoughts and ideas. Narrative writing graphic organizers are helpful in both completing writing projects and also for reference in future projects.

Narrative writing graphic organizers are very supportive in creative writing because they take away a lot of stress and anxiety from the student and the teacher. Their focus is to divide the whole exercise into small chunks and allow the child to fill in details to come up with a complete recount or narrative of events and ideas.

chronological writing graphic organizer

2. The Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer Examples

Below are 9 editable narrative writing graphic organizer examples for you to choose from.

Example 1: Writing Personal Narratives: Watermelon Graphic Organizer

This Watermelon graphic organizer is used to help students so that they can brainstorm a big narrative idea. Students divide their writing into small moments. They narrow down their report of significant moment experience to specific small moments. Watermelon narrative writing graphic organizer is presented as a fun template. They think of a watermelon slice as an event, while the small moment details are the seeds. This way, students do not get overwhelmed with the scale of more information. So, they start small and build their narrative gradually.

Writing Personal Narratives: Watermelon Graphic Organizer

Example 2: Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer Template

Narrative writing graphic organizer template is a graphic organizer for students to create a personal narrative story. In this template, students first summarize the details of what they are going to write. This summary may include what happened, where it happened when it happened, and who the characters are. Students then add the details in the form of the beginning, middle, and end sequencing format. This graphic organizer for narrative writing template is incredibly supportive in writing biographies, travelogues, and event descriptions.

Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer Template

Example 3: Narrative Writing Brainstorm Graphic Organizer

Personal narratives are complicated for many students because the structure is not very particular. Narrative writing brainstorm graphic organizer is a sequencing guide for students to follow this structure for brainstorming, listing out characters, settings, event sequencing, and sensory details.

This narrative writing graphic organizer follows this structure.

Narrative Writing Brainstorm Graphic Organizer

Example 4: Personal Narrative Graphic Organizer interactive worksheet

Personal narrative graphic organizer interactive worksheet is also based on the description of small moments. This worksheet starts with the small moment event. Then there are some questions pushing the student to give details of their memory. It asks 'who is in this story with you?', 'When/Where does this take place?' emotions, feelings, and sensory details. Later it asks for an attractive first sentence and then the details of the memory. Finally, the conclusion is written. So, in small steps, students can come up with a complete personal narrative. You can see the importance of graphic organizers for narrative writing in guiding the students without overwhelming them.

Personal Narrative Graphic Organizer interactive worksheet

Example 5: Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer Example

This narrative writing graphic organizer example presents the student with some blocks for filling in the details. This is also a great tool to support the students to write a detailed account of a problem situation gradually with small stepping stones. This organizer first asks for the character descriptions, setting to describe when and where the event happened, the problem, and the solution.

The next step is the plot, where the students will fill in the start, building, and the end of the event.

Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer Example

Example 6: Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing

A graphic organizer for narrative writing is a perfect solution for young students in the early grades. This narrative writing graphic organizer is the simplest form of an organizer. It starts with the title, topic, and purpose. Then we ask the students to write the first catching sentence. Followed by the first sentence, we want the details of the event in three steps. Write the first, next, and the last piece and end it with the conclusion.

Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing

Source: EdrawMax Online Edit Now

Example 7: Narrative Writing Planning Graphic Organizer

This graphic organizer for narrative writing is an organizer that focuses on sensory details. It asks the students to draw their narrative scenes and then recall the smell, taste, feels, hears, and what they saw in that event. So, this recount is more about the feeling than the words.

Narrative Writing Planning Graphic Organizer

Example 8: Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer: Beginning-Middle-End

Narrative writing graphic organizer is suitable for students with command over written words and vocabulary. It again calls for the beginning, middle, and end of the event. The student can go step by step on the recount of the event and describe what happened. However, it lacks particular boxes for characters and settings. In the end, the students fill in the last box with the summary.

Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer: Beginning-Middle-End

Example 9: Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer Middle School

Online narrative writing graphic organizer is another simplest form of a graphic organizer. It simply asks the students to fill in the introduction, middle, and conclusion. For the lack of more prompts, we can assume that this organizer is again more suited for the older student who has command of writing and vocabulary. As the name suggests, this is for middle school students.

Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer Middle School

3. Online Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer Maker

A Graphic organizer maker is an excellent tool for teachers and mentors to create narrative writing graphic organizers according to the needs and skills of their pupils. EdrawMax Online is a robust tool for quickly creating graphic organizers in little time. Since the teachers are very busy and need easy-to-use tools to support their teaching endeavors, EdrawMax Online is excellent support. The best part of this tool is the availability of pre-made templates that can be used right away and customized. There are templates available at Template Gallery for more than 280+ types of drawings.

EdrawMax Online

4. Key Takeaways

Graphic organizers for narrative writing support teachers, parents, and students for tension-free creative writing. Children love to tell their stories and experiences, but when we force them to follow a particular structure, writing style, and vocabulary, it becomes a stressful situation. Narrative writing graphic organizers support this situation and present fun solutions for making creative writing stress-free.

EdrawMax Online is a quick-start graphic organizer maker that makes making graphic organizers very easy and less time-consuming. It has many shapes, symbols, and text tools for drawings. The templates available at Template Gallery make the tasks even more accessible.

Related Articles

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narrative writing template middle school

Personal Narrative Writing in Middle School: Digging Deeper

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

narrative writing template middle school

For years, I didn't do personal narrative writing in middle school. In fact, I wrote an entire blog post about why I didn't do it . Main reason...it's been done before in many years prior to when those students came to you, especially if teachers prior use writing workshop.

However, I've grown to embrace it again. The biggest reason why is because I think it helps build a classroom community. I decided to go with personal narrative instead of my usual fiction writing in response to reading during the pandemic. I felt, since the kids were remote, this was a good way to get to know each other a little better.

I did peruse Lucy Calkins' Personal Narrative unit for the digital notebook, however, as I went through the unit, I changed a lot.

I like to have the students do a quick narrative based on a person in their lives . The idea of writing about a special moment with a person has been done a lot up until this point so I feel it's an easy way to get a sense of where they are. I have them start with listing moments with an important person. They pick one of those moments to write about.

narrative writing template middle school

I don't necessarily need an entire story; I just want them to show me what they can do.

Getting Started

If you don't know already, a personal narrative focuses on a small moment , not an entire day, trip, game, etc. In the earlier grades, teachers spend a lot of time on this (think less watermelon, more seed). At this point, I feel that students just need a refresher.

I like to do this through mentor texts . I provide students with actual written student narratives from my past students. (Here are two you can use. These are by actual students, so definitely not perfect examples. Student Narrative #1 and Student Narrative #2 ).

Students go in to highlight specifically the small moment components of the stories. We discuss how these stories are small moments (or not) and they also start analyzing what the stories did well (or not).

I think it is super valuable to see other students' stories to give students perspective of what's expected or what can be improved.

narrative writing template middle school


Students begin to brainstorm by thinking of a place that is important to them. I tell them to be as specific as possible.

Their idea may be big, but then they make a map of the place. The map is more focused on the moments that happened in the place. They then pick one of those moments in the place and write long about it.

narrative writing template middle school

Next, I have students write about moments that mattered. For this, I like to do Show and Tell . I tell students a few days before to bring in an item that is important to them. This should symbolize something or someone that is important in their lives. This goes so well! It goes beyond just what the objects are, but also what they can represent.

They use that object to brainstorm ideas within the topics of "first times", "last times", and "moments I learned something" . For example, I showed a picture of my husband and me at my brother's wedding. This was important to me because it was the first time I had left my son with another babysitter. I was dealing with post-partum anxiety. This stemmed lots of ideas: first time I left my son with a babysitter, first time I had an anxiety attack, the LAST time I had an anxiety attack, the first time I changed a diaper, the moment I learned it's important to enjoy small things, etc.

narrative writing template middle school

I start with students focusing on story structure . I have them look at short stories to do this. I really like "Eleven" and "Fish Cheeks". They are short and sweet and are great models for personal narrative.

They fill out the chart for those stories. We discuss, then they plan their own stories on a story structure chart.

The next day we focus on internal and external . This is something we cover in our unit prior. I do a Deep Study of Character before this and we often get into internal and external characteristics of characters. For writing, they focus on what they could be thinking (internal) in each part of their chart and what they could be doing (external) in each part.

Like everything else, we look at short stories first to see how these mentor authors do the same.

narrative writing template middle school

Before getting into the actual writing, I spend a day on Show Don't Tell . There are so many things you can do with this, but here's how I do it .

I usually break down each part of the story structure chart by day. So, I will do exposition one day, rising action another, etc. I will start each day with them looking at mentor expositions, etc. Each year, I've done different things. I also share MY PERSONAL NARRATIVE. This is so important; you HAVE to write what the students are expected to write .

A few things I've done:

I would share a Doc with a page or two out of a shared read aloud. I'd give them specific questions that focus on that part of the story map; for example, "how did Jason Reynolds introduce the characters in this chapter?".

I'd have them go back into whatever books they are reading and answer similar questions ("how did the author introduce setting/problem/solution?" "how did the author show feelings/thoughts/actions?").

I always share with them MY exposition, rising action, etc. Sometimes I just read it to them, other times I have them work with partners to look for similar things mentioned in the bullets before this.

narrative writing template middle school

It's important to look at mentors. I don't just have them go and write the whole story in a day. It's so important to break it up.

There are so many different lessons you can do. I always have to remind myself that you don't have to teach them EVERY thing. I try to keep revision pretty straightforward.

Of course, there is editing; focusing on grammar, punctuation, spelling. I like to tie in anything I do with mentor sentences or vocabulary . It's a good idea to connect it to anything you do for grammar or word study.

Four major areas of revision as per the Lucy Calkins' unit:

Looking at mentor sentences and trying it out with their own writing.

Finding the heart of the story.

Stretching out scenes (finding a moment that can use more detail and stretching it).

Slowing down the problem scene.

I don't always commit to these exactly. I do like to spend time on dialogue and elaboration . I really get into how important it is to punctuate it properly and how to tag it so it shows more description.

I also revisit their showing and not telling slides and have them apply it to their writing.

One of the very last things I do in the revision stage is have them do critique groups . This is a bit different than just them swapping Docs with each other and commenting. It's more of a dialogue.

narrative writing template middle school

Lastly, they finalize their draft and put it on a Padlet . This is used for lots of things. Guardians are able to see their writing. They can see each other's writing. And I have a spot with ALL of their stories.

Bottom Line

While personal narrative has been done, there is always room to grow. I really feel it depends on the group you have. It's a nice way to start the year to get to know each other. I usually spend about a month on the entire unit.

Click below to get my digital notebook for the unit!

narrative writing template middle school


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narrative writing template middle school

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narrative writing template middle school

narrative writing template middle school

Bell Ringers

Middle school narrative essays and middle school writing conferences.

Five years ago, I had just started my first year of teaching 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts. We were working on writing middle school narrative essays and I did a blog post on how I taught it here .

I have grown SO much since that time. My students definitely learned a lot, but especially because I teach the same kids in 8th grade as I do in 7th, I knew that I had to really up what we are doing this year.

Disclaimer: I don’t teach “personal narratives.” I know. Writing gods across the universe are gasping in shock, but it’s a decision I made a couple years ago, kind of on a whim, but has been the best thing I have ever done. 



I just feel like kids have written 8-10 personal narratives by the time they get to me, and we are all over it. Plus, sometimes it’s REALLY hard for kids to write something meaningful about the first time they were stung by a bee… or whatever small moment I spend hours and days trying to help them come up with.

I found that when students have to use narrative elements to become a character from a narrative mentor text, they don’t spend days trying to figure out what to write. They truly use narrative craft because they have a complete and well done mentor text to constantly reference. Plus they’re final essay and their writing are just SO FREAKING GOOD.

My first year, we read Freak the Mighty in both seventh and eighth grade. Students had to write from Freak’s or from Killer Kane’s point of view. They were some of the best essay I’ve ever read.  

I used my Realistic Fiction and Literature Terms/Devices unit, along with Freak the Mighty.

I use the novels to teach literary elements and they use that knowledge to write their middle school narrative essays. We also focus a lot on thinking critically about the texts we read.

middle school freak the mighty novel study


My first year teaching middle school ELA, I taught a lot of the same lessons to both seventh and eight grade. It was honestly perfect as I learned two new grade levels, but that meant I changed things up a lot in the following years. 

I still did the same thing with my 7th graders this year, and we are just about done writing our rough drafts.

For 8th grade, I had the same students, so I decided we would read  The Outsiders . Even more so, instead of them just having to write from the point of view of a character, I actually wanted them to have to do some of that hard thinking that they might be missing out on by not doing a personal narrative.

With this in mind, my 8th graders had to continue Ponyboy’s narrative. Their middle school narrative essays still had to have a plot and climax that was completely developed. Essentially, I was asking them to write another chapter of the book.

It was REALLY HARD for all of us, especially in the planning stages, but I scaffolded and modeled A LOT. Now we’re on rough drafts too, and they’re seriously amazing.

I have since also added a sixth grade example for everything. We used Jason Reynolds novel, Ghost for their mentor text. Again, we used my realistic fiction unit and their novel study units. 

The Outsiders Middle School Novel study


Each year, I changed how we did our narrative writing unit, and I continued to update my examples and lesson plans each year. 

I have since compiled all my middle school narrative writing lesson into one complete unit that you can get here. 

Since I do teach middle school narrative essays differently than a lot of teachers, I thought I would give you a better overview of what the complete units looks like, plus show you some freebies you can get to use today! 

middle school complete narrative unit cover with 3 weeks of lessons


Each lesson plan has standard alignment, lesson plans for learning period, interactive notebook pages when applicable, teacher prep, writing conference forms and examples, and more! 

narrative writing lesson plans snapshat


With middle school narrative essays I find that students need some front loading before drafting. Because of that, we do spend the first few days doing some interactive notebook lessons on elements of narrative. 

elements of narrative essay interactive notebook lesson

Personal narratives are all about teaching students to use the elements of narrative writing. Since we aren’t doing a personal narrative, I focus heavily on the elements of a narrative to start. We start by defining each of the elements but then look for examples in our mento texts. This is huge because they use their mentor text to write their essays. 

interactive notebook lessons for narrative elements plot dialogue sensory details


As someone who taught all three grade levels of middle school at the same time, I always needed different examples. I like to be able to use the same units, but use different content. If there is an interactive notebook lesson, I made sure to differentiate examples by grade level. 

middle school narrative essay elements interactive notebook for establishing context logical event sequence situate events in a time and place develop the point of view develop character motives and use dialogue

The same is done for all of the lesson plans when there are examples based on the mentor texts. I  use Ghost for sixth grade, Freak the Mighty seventh grade, and The Outsiders for eighth grades, so I make sure I have different examples for each. 

It drove me crazy when students would say things like, “I don’t get what to do.” So I made sure I had examples that were conceptualized for each grade level so there was no excuse. 

middle school narrative essay plot diagram for mento texts


I know I teach middle school ELA, but I still love using chart papers for students to reference. Most of my interactive notebook lessons were adapted and created based on the chart papers. 

You don’t have to do both the chart papers and the interactive notebook lessons, but I did include images of all my chart papers. I honestly just made them as I came up with elements that I knew we need to dig deeper into throughout the unit. 

When I was in a pinch some year, I honestly could just print the chart papers on 8×10 paper so students could glue them into their notebooks. I don’t think it is as effective as student taking their own notes, but sometimes you’re short on time. 

middle school narrative essay chart papers for lessons


I strongly believe that my students write really strong narrative essays because of how I do writing conferences with students. 

I have a separate blog post all about how I do writing conference in my middle school ELA classroom , because there was a time when I did them like I “thought” I needed to do writing conferences. 

I thought I needed to spend time training them, making them be prepared for them, and then trying to come up with discussion points. I’ve since learned that that just isn’t reality when you have 100+ middle school ELA students. 

Check out my blog post all about this here. 

I also have since made tons of editable middle school narrative essays rubrics and writing conference forms for teachers and students. 

editable narrative essay rubrics and writing conference forms for middle school ELA


One of the biggest updates I made while redoing my narrative writing unit was making a narrative reference notebook.

It’s perfect for students to create at the beginning of the units and to reference while creating their narrative essays. 

middle school narrative reference notebook free resource

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narrative writing template middle school

My ELA scope and sequence guides break down every single middle school ELA standard and concept for reading, writing, and language in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. Use the guides and resources exactly as is or as inspiration for you own!

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Literacy Ideas


Narratives build on and encourage the development of the fundamentals of writing. They also require developing an additional skill set: the ability to tell a good yarn, and storytelling is as old as humanity.

We see and hear stories everywhere and daily, from having good gossip on the doorstep with a neighbor in the morning to the dramas that fill our screens in the evening.

Good narrative writing skills are hard-won by students even though it is an area of writing that most enjoy due to the creativity and freedom it offers.

Here we will explore some of the main elements of a good story: plot, setting, characters, conflict, climax, and resolution . And we will look too at how best we can help our students understand these elements, both in isolation and how they mesh together as a whole.

Visual Writing Prompts


What is a narrative?

A narrative is a story that shares a sequence of events , characters, and themes. It expresses experiences, ideas, and perspectives that should aspire to engage and inspire an audience.

A narrative can spark emotion, encourage reflection, and convey meaning when done well.

Narratives are a popular genre for students and teachers as they allow the writer to share their imagination, creativity, skill, and understanding of nearly all elements of writing.  Occasionally, we refer to a narrative as ‘creative writing’ or story writing.

The purpose of a narrative is simple, to tell the audience a story.  It can be written to motivate, educate, or entertain and can be both fact or fiction.


narrative writing | narrative writing unit 1 2 | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

Teach your students to become skilled story writers with this HUGE   NARRATIVE & CREATIVE STORY WRITING UNIT . Offering a  COMPLETE SOLUTION  to teaching students how to craft  CREATIVE CHARACTERS, SUPERB SETTINGS, and PERFECT PLOTS .

Over 192 PAGES of materials, including:


There are many narrative writing genres and sub-genres such as these.

We have a complete guide to writing a personal narrative that differs from the traditional story-based narrative covered in this guide. It includes personal narrative writing prompts, resources, and examples and can be found here.

narrative writing | how to write quest narratives | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

As we can see, narratives are an open-ended form of writing that allows you to showcase creativity in many different directions. However, all narratives share a common set of features and structure known as “Story Elements”, which are briefly covered in this guide.

Don’t overlook the importance of understanding story elements and the value this adds to you as a writer who can dissect and create grand narratives. We also have an in-depth guide to understanding story elements here .


Narrative structure.

ORIENTATION (BEGINNING) Set the scene by introducing your characters, setting and time of the story. Establish your who, when and where in this part of your narrative

COMPLICATION AND EVENTS (MIDDLE) In this section activities and events involving your main characters are expanded upon. These events are written in a cohesive and fluent sequence.

RESOLUTION (ENDING) Your complication is resolved in this section. It does not have to be a happy outcome, however.

EXTRAS: Whilst orientation, complication and resolution are the agreed norms for a narrative, there are numerous examples of popular texts that did not explicitly follow this path exactly.


LANGUAGE: Use descriptive and figurative language to paint images inside your audience’s minds as they read.

PERSPECTIVE Narratives can be written from any perspective but are most commonly written in first or third person.

DIALOGUE Narratives frequently switch from narrator to first-person dialogue. Always use speech marks when writing dialogue.

TENSE If you change tense, make it perfectly clear to your audience what is happening. Flashbacks might work well in your mind but make sure they translate to your audience.


narrative writing | structuring a narrative | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

This graphic is known as a plot map, and nearly all narratives fit this structure in one way or another, whether romance novels, science fiction or otherwise.

It is a simple tool that helps you to understand and organize the events in a story. Think of it as a roadmap that outlines the journey of your characters and the events that unfold. It outlines the different stops along the way, such as the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution, that help you to see how the story builds and develops.

Using a plot map, you can see how each event fits into the larger picture and how the different parts of the story work together to create meaning. It’s a great way to visualize and analyze a story.

Be sure to refer to a plot map when planning a story, as it has all the essential elements of a great story.


This video we created provides an excellent overview of these elements and demonstrates them in action in stories we all know and love.

Story Elements for kids


How to write a Narrative

Now that we understand the story elements and how they come together to form stories, it’s time to start planning and writing your narrative.

In many cases, the template and guide below will provide enough details on how to craft a great story. However, if you still need assistance with the fundamentals of writing, such as sentence structure, paragraphs and using correct grammar, we have some excellent guides on those here.

USE YOUR WRITING TIME EFFECTIVELY: Maximize your narrative writing sessions by spending approximately 20 per cent of your time planning and preparing.  This ensures greater productivity during your writing time and keeps you focused and on task.

Use tools such as graphic organizers to logically sequence your narrative if you are not a confident story writer.  If you are working with reluctant writers, try using narrative writing prompts to get their creative juices flowing.

Spend most of your writing hour on the task at hand, don’t get too side-tracked editing during this time and leave some time for editing. When editing a  narrative, examine it for these three elements.


narrative writing | aa156ee009d91a57894348652da98b58 | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

The story’s setting often answers two of the central questions in the story, namely, the where and the when. The answers to these two crucial questions will often be informed by the type of story the student is writing.

The story’s setting can be chosen to quickly orient the reader to the type of story they are reading. For example, a fictional narrative writing piece such as a horror story will often begin with a description of a haunted house on a hill or an abandoned asylum in the middle of the woods. If we start our story on a rocket ship hurtling through the cosmos on its space voyage to the Alpha Centauri star system, we can be reasonably sure that the story we are embarking on is a work of science fiction.

Such conventions are well-worn clichés true, but they can be helpful starting points for our novice novelists to make a start.

Having students choose an appropriate setting for the type of story they wish to write is an excellent exercise for our younger students. It leads naturally onto the next stage of story writing, which is creating suitable characters to populate this fictional world they have created. However, older or more advanced students may wish to play with the expectations of appropriate settings for their story. They may wish to do this for comic effect or in the interest of creating a more original story. For example, opening a story with a children’s birthday party does not usually set up the expectation of a horror story. Indeed, it may even lure the reader into a happy reverie as they remember their own happy birthday parties. This leaves them more vulnerable to the surprise element of the shocking action that lies ahead.

Once the students have chosen a setting for their story, they need to start writing. Little can be more terrifying to English students than the blank page and its bare whiteness stretching before them on the table like a merciless desert they must cross. Give them the kick-start they need by offering support through word banks or writing prompts. If the class is all writing a story based on the same theme, you may wish to compile a common word bank on the whiteboard as a prewriting activity. Write the central theme or genre in the middle of the board. Have students suggest words or phrases related to the theme and list them on the board.

You may wish to provide students with a copy of various writing prompts to get them started. While this may mean that many students’ stories will have the same beginning, they will most likely arrive at dramatically different endings via dramatically different routes.

narrative writing | story elements | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

A bargain is at the centre of the relationship between the writer and the reader. That bargain is that the reader promises to suspend their disbelief as long as the writer creates a consistent and convincing fictional reality. Creating a believable world for the fictional characters to inhabit requires the student to draw on convincing details. The best way of doing this is through writing that appeals to the senses. Have your student reflect deeply on the world that they are creating. What does it look like? Sound like? What does the food taste like there? How does it feel like to walk those imaginary streets, and what aromas beguile the nose as the main character winds their way through that conjured market?

Also, Consider the when; or the time period. Is it a future world where things are cleaner and more antiseptic? Or is it an overcrowded 16th-century London with human waste stinking up the streets? If students can create a multi-sensory installation in the reader’s mind, then they have done this part of their job well.

Popular Settings from Children’s Literature and Storytelling


Now that your student has created a believable world, it is time to populate it with believable characters.

In short stories, these worlds mustn’t be overpopulated beyond what the student’s skill level can manage. Short stories usually only require one main character and a few secondary ones. Think of the short story more as a small-scale dramatic production in an intimate local theater than a Hollywood blockbuster on a grand scale. Too many characters will only confuse and become unwieldy with a canvas this size. Keep it simple!

Creating believable characters is often one of the most challenging aspects of narrative writing for students. Fortunately, we can do a few things to help students here. Sometimes it is helpful for students to model their characters on actual people they know. This can make things a little less daunting and taxing on the imagination. However, whether or not this is the case, writing brief background bios or descriptions of characters’ physical personality characteristics can be a beneficial prewriting activity. Students should give some in-depth consideration to the details of who their character is: How do they walk? What do they look like? Do they have any distinguishing features? A crooked nose? A limp? Bad breath? Small details such as these bring life and, therefore, believability to characters. Students can even cut pictures from magazines to put a face to their character and allow their imaginations to fill in the rest of the details.

Younger students will often dictate to the reader the nature of their characters. To improve their writing craft, students must know when to switch from story-telling mode to story-showing mode. This is particularly true when it comes to character. Encourage students to reveal their character’s personality through what they do rather than merely by lecturing the reader on the faults and virtues of the character’s personality. It might be a small relayed detail in the way they walk that reveals a core characteristic. For example, a character who walks with their head hanging low and shoulders hunched while avoiding eye contact has been revealed to be timid without the word once being mentioned. This is a much more artistic and well-crafted way of doing things and is less irritating for the reader. A character who sits down at the family dinner table immediately snatches up his fork and starts stuffing roast potatoes into his mouth before anyone else has even managed to sit down has revealed a tendency towards greed or gluttony.

Understanding Character Traits

Again, there is room here for some fun and profitable prewriting activities. Give students a list of character traits and have them describe a character doing something that reveals that trait without ever employing the word itself.

It is also essential to avoid adjective stuffing here. When looking at students’ early drafts, adjective stuffing is often apparent. To train the student out of this habit, choose an adjective and have the student rewrite the sentence to express this adjective through action rather than telling.

When writing a story, it is vital to consider the character’s traits and how they will impact the story’s events. For example, a character with a strong trait of determination may be more likely to overcome obstacles and persevere. In contrast, a character with a tendency towards laziness may struggle to achieve their goals. In short, character traits add realism, depth, and meaning to a story, making it more engaging and memorable for the reader.

Popular Character Traits in Children’s Stories

We have an in-depth guide to creating great characters here , but most students should be fine to move on to planning their conflict and resolution.


narrative writing | 2 RoadBlock | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

This is often the area apprentice writers have the most difficulty with. It is vital that students understand that without a problem or conflict, there is no story. The problem is the driving force of the action. Usually, in a short story, the problem will center around what the primary character wants to happen or, indeed, wants not to happen. It is the hurdle that must be overcome. It is in the struggle to overcome this hurdle that events happen.

Often when a student understands the need for a problem in a story, their completed work will still not be successful. This is because, often in life, problems remain unsolved. Hurdles are not always successfully overcome. Students pick up on this.

We often discuss problems with friends that will never be satisfactorily resolved one way or the other, and we accept this as a part of life. This is not usually the case with writing a story. Whether a character successfully overcomes his or her problem or is decidedly crushed in the process of trying is not as important as the fact that it will finally be resolved one way or the other.

A good practical exercise for students to get to grips with this is to provide copies of stories and have them identify the central problem or conflict in each through discussion. Familiar fables or fairy tales such as Three Little Pigs, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Cinderella, etc., are great for this.

While it is true that stories often have more than one problem or that the hero or heroine is unsuccessful in their first attempt to solve a central problem, for beginning students and intermediate students, it is best to focus on a single problem, especially given the scope of story writing at this level. Over time students will develop their abilities to handle more complex plots and write accordingly.

Popular Conflicts found in Children’s Storytelling.

Conflict is the heart and soul of any good story. It’s what makes a story compelling and drives the plot forward. Without conflict, there is no story. Every great story has a struggle or a problem that needs to be solved, and that’s where conflict comes in. Conflict is what makes a story exciting and keeps the reader engaged. It creates tension and suspense and makes the reader care about the outcome.

Like in real life, conflict in a story is an opportunity for a character’s growth and transformation. It’s a chance for them to learn and evolve, making a story great. So next time stories are written in the classroom, remember that conflict is an essential ingredient, and without it, your story will lack the energy, excitement, and meaning that makes it truly memorable.


narrative writing | tension 1068x660 1 | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

The climax of the story is the dramatic high point of the action. It is also when the struggles kicked off by the problem come to a head. The climax will ultimately decide whether the story will have a happy or tragic ending. In the climax, two opposing forces duke things out until the bitter (or sweet!) end. One force ultimately emerges triumphant. As the action builds throughout the story, suspense increases as the reader wonders which of these forces will win out. The climax is the release of this suspense.

Much of the success of the climax depends on how well the other elements of the story have been achieved. If the student has created a well-drawn and believable character that the reader can identify with and feel for, then the climax will be more powerful.

The nature of the problem is also essential as it determines what’s at stake in the climax. The problem must matter dearly to the main character if it matters at all to the reader.

Have students engage in discussions about their favorite movies and books. Have them think about the storyline and decide what the most exciting parts were. What was at stake at these moments? What happened in your body as you read or watched? Did you breathe faster? Or grip the cushion hard? Did your heart rate increase, or did you start to sweat? This is what a good climax does and what our students should strive to do in their stories.

The climax puts it all on the line and rolls the dice. Let the chips fall where the writer may…

Popular Climax themes in Children’s Stories


After the climactic action, a few questions will often remain unresolved for the reader, even if all the conflict has been resolved. The resolution is where those lingering questions will be answered. The resolution in a short story may only be a brief paragraph or two. But, in most cases, it will still be necessary to include an ending immediately after the climax can feel too abrupt and leave the reader feeling unfulfilled.

An easy way to explain resolution to students struggling to grasp the concept is to point to the traditional resolution of fairy tales, the “And they all lived happily ever after” ending. This weather forecast for the future allows the reader to take their leave. Have the student consider the emotions they want to leave the reader with when crafting their resolution.

While usually, the action is complete by the end of the climax; it is in the resolution that if there is a twist to be found, it will appear – think of movies such as The Usual Suspects. Pulling this off convincingly usually requires considerable skill from a student writer. Still, it may well form a challenging extension exercise for those more gifted storytellers among your students.

Popular Resolutions in Children’s Stories

Once students have completed their story, they can edit for grammar, vocabulary choice, spelling, etc., but not before!

As mentioned, there is a craft to storytelling, as well as an art. When accurate grammar, perfect spelling, and immaculate sentence structures are pushed at the outset, they can cause storytelling paralysis. For this reason, it is essential that when we encourage the students to write a story, we give them license to make mechanical mistakes in their use of language that they can work on and fix later.

Good narrative writing is a very complex skill to develop and will take the student years to become competent. It challenges not only the student’s technical abilities with language but also her creative faculties. Writing frames, word banks, mind maps, and visual prompts can all give valuable support as students develop the wide-ranging and challenging skills required to produce a successful narrative writing piece. But, at the end of it all, as with any craft, practice and more practice is at the heart of the matter.



Below are a collection of student writing samples of narratives.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to read these creative stories in detail and the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the critical elements of narratives to consider before writing.

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of story writing.

We recommend reading the example either a year above or below, as well as the grade you are currently working with, to gain a broader appreciation of this text type.

narrative writing | Narrative writing example year 3 1 | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com


When students have a great journal prompt, it can help them focus on the task at hand, so be sure to view our vast collection of visual writing prompts for various text types here or use some of these.


narrative writing | Copy of Copy of Copy of HOW TO WRITE POEMS | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

When teaching narrative writing, it is essential that you have a range of tools, strategies and resources at your disposal to ensure you get the most out of your writing time.  You can find some examples below, which are free and paid premium resources you can use instantly without any preparation.

FREE Narrative Graphic Organizer

narrative writing | NarrativeGraphicOrganizer | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com


narrative writing | story tellers bundle 1 | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

A MASSIVE COLLECTION of resources for narratives and story writing in the classroom covering all elements of crafting amazing stories. MONTHS WORTH OF WRITING LESSONS AND RESOURCES, including:


narrative writing | WRITING CHECKLISTS | How to write a Narrative: A Complete Guide for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com


narrative writing | Narrative2BWriting2BStrategies2Bfor2Bjuniors2B28129 | Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies | literacyideas.com

Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies

narrative writing | narrative writing lessons | 5 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love | literacyideas.com

5 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love

narrative writing | Top narrative writing skills for students | Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students | literacyideas.com

Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students

narrative writing | how to write a scary horror story | how to write a scary story | literacyideas.com

how to write a scary story

The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh.  A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here.  Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.

NO PREP REQUIRED A ready-made unit on STORY WRITING awaits you.



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